Gavin finally shows how much it means

Gavin finally shows how much it means
Dublin manager, Jim Gavin, and John Costello, CEO of the Dublin County Board, celebrate Dublin’s win over Kerry. Picture: Ray McManus.

It took the creation of GAA history for Jim Gavin to leave his guard down on Saturday evening at Croke Park.

Jim Gavin the manager showed he was also Jim Gavin the son, when his father, Cooraclare native Jim senior, was invited into the main press conference following the game.

As a manager, Gavin’s style is calculating and sometimes cold, akin to Kilkenny hurling manager, Brian Cody’s. Pat Gilroy would have been closer to the players than his successor, Gavin.

And who will forget the contrast in reactions to the final whistle in the 2015 final, Dublin selector Mick Deegan, with his arms aloft in jubilation, as Gavin, arms folded, watched on, seemingly emotionless? His public utterances have been in keeping with that, and his low-key reaction two years ago to completing the three in a row drew criticism.

And yet, he has another side. Having spent time with him on the 2014 All-Stars trip to Boston, I know there is a genuine warmth to the man. Away from recording devices, he is a different character. As Paul Curran said in this newspaper, on Saturday, “I know it’s not how people view him, or how he portrays himself in the media, but Jim’s actually a very amenable, friendly person. He can be good fun. He’s just a good person to be around. But, obviously, he’s become obsessed with this thing. Obsessed.”

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Stories about Gavin’s compassion and his generosity with his time are well-known in Dublin, too. But being able to present a persona — or at least being able to compartmentalise the different elements of what he needed and wanted to be — could be sourced from his Air Corps background.

And after the disappointment of losing the 2014 semi-final to Donegal, Gavin was adamant he wasn’t going to get caught out again and he became more removed.

Five years on and his Dublin side hasn’t been touched, but there is a palpable sense of finality about the project. Not that his words betrayed that — “I can’t say it does (feel like the end),” he said on Saturday — but then neither Gavin nor any player was going to sully this remarkable achievement with talk of finishing up. Instead, they were going to rightfully celebrate and enjoy their stunning achievement.

However, Gavin’s actions said something else. Before his father joined the press conference, he, along with Declan Darcy and Jason Sherlock, took the unprecedented decision to walk to Hill 16 to acknowledge the terrace.

As Darcy explains elsewhere in these pages, the management group had always been careful about how they carried themselves after games, but “there was just something special that let people go a bit”.

Gavin was also more expansive than usual in that press conference, gently digging at Dublin goalkeeper, Stephen Cluxton’s obsessiveness and he was just as relaxed when speaking to RTÉ, in the team hotel, later on Saturday night.

For a man who is known to think at least six months ahead, who would debrief with advisor Gary Keegan the mornings after finals, and who famously said, directly after winning the 2013 final, that other counties were already ahead of them in the preparations for the following season, he was considerably more at ease.

Even media manager,Seamus McCormack, a man known for a tight rein, was offering access all areas on Sunday morning. It was so wonderful to see how much it meant to Gavin, given the steely stillness he had displayed for years. Just as Cluxton found it “tough” to give the acceptance speech on Saturday, Gavin admitted that talking to the media wasn’t his favourite part of the gig.

In claiming they didn’t get enough credit for the three in a row, Darcy couldn’t be more right. Beating a young Kerry team that should go on to win several All-Irelands is easier to appreciate than seeing off an ageing, stubborn Mayo side.

That lack of appreciation might not have been fair, but it was certainly human nature. In interviews, James McCarthy, and a couple of other players, did articulate how much the success meant, but for it to be truly believable, it had to come from the top.

Losing his game face on Saturday, Gavin made the squaring of the circle truly complete.

If this is the end for him, then it could hardly have been more perfect.

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